India In-Focus — Nomura cuts 2022 retail inflation forecast; Wheat import duty may be scrapped

India In-Focus — Nomura cuts 2022 retail inflation forecast; Wheat import duty may be scrapped
(Nomura analysts put the inflation figure at 6.7 percent in 2022 (Shutterstock)
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Updated 09 August 2022

India In-Focus — Nomura cuts 2022 retail inflation forecast; Wheat import duty may be scrapped

India In-Focus — Nomura cuts 2022 retail inflation forecast; Wheat import duty may be scrapped

RIYADH: Lower food and commodity prices have led to India’s headline retail inflation forecast being revised down 20 basis points by Japanese financial holding company Nomura.

Nomura analysts put the inflation figure at 6.7 percent in 2022, but they expect inflation to average 6.0 percent in 2023 — up from 5.9 percent in their previous forecast.

“Some ameliorating factors have materialized in July, such as lower food and commodity prices, but retail prices are likely to remain sticky,” Nomura analysts Sonal Varma and Aurodeep Nandi said in a note.

Nomura expects India’s economic growth at 7.0 percent in 2022/23, which is seen easing to 5.5 percent in the next financial year that starts in April 2023.

It expects the pace of hikes in policy rates to slow down and sees the Reserve Bank of India hiking repo rate by 35 basis points in September and 25 bps in December.

India could scrap wheat import duty to cool domestic prices: sources

India could scrap a 40 percent duty on wheat imports and cap the amount of stocks traders can hold to try to dampen record high domestic prices in the world’s second-biggest producer, government and trade officials told Reuters on Monday.

Late in the day, the trade ministry said it would restrict the export of some wheat-derived products like finely milled “maida” and semolina from Aug. 14, with only an inter-ministerial committee allowed to clear their shipment. Exports of the items are generally small.

India barred wheat exports in May after the crop suffered a heatwave, but domestic prices still rose to a record high. Yet, international prices are still way above the domestic market, making it unviable for traders to buy from abroad.

If the government does remove the duty, and international prices also fall, then traders say they could start importing, especially during the upcoming festival season, when higher demand typically drives domestic prices higher.

“We are exploring all possible options to bring down the prices,” said a senior government official who held a discussion with industry officials last week.

India reassures availability of crop supply to Gulf states

Abdullah BalSharaf, chairman of the Food Items Committee at the Saudi Chambers Council, said that Indian producers have reassured the availability of crops including the Basmati grains to Gulf states, as the country reported adequate rainfalls this year.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Aawsat, he added that there is an abundance of inventory in the Saudi market, which will help to maintain price stability.

BalSharaf noted that there is a shortage of rainfall in India, but regions, where Basmati rice is being produced, have received adequate rainfall. 

(With input from Reuters) 


ECB eyes blockchain for settling bank transactions, says official

ECB eyes blockchain for settling bank transactions, says official
Updated 59 min 7 sec ago

ECB eyes blockchain for settling bank transactions, says official

ECB eyes blockchain for settling bank transactions, says official
  • The ECB is among a number of central banks around the world working on digital versions of their currency in response to the popularity of digital tokens

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank is studying ways of settling transactions between banks on a blockchain in a bid to keep control of money even if lenders switch to distributed ledgers, ECB board member Fabio Panetta said on Monday.

The ECB is among a number of central banks around the world working on digital versions of their currency in response to the popularity of digital tokens such as Bitcoin and the blockchain technology that powers them.

This distributed ledger technology is predicated on market participants verifying transactions and keeping a copy of them rather than relying on a trusted party, such as a central bank.

On top of a digital euro for consumers, the ECB is looking at how it could let banks settle wholesale transactions between them on a distributed ledger, rather than the central bank’s own.

“Despite the uncertainties surrounding DLT’s potential, we want to be prepared for a scenario where market players adopt DLT for wholesale payments and securities settlement,” Panetta said. 

We want to be prepared for a scenario where market players adopt DLT for wholesale payments and securities settlement.

Fabio Panetta, ECB official

He added letting banks settle among themselves or use stablecoins, which are crypto tokens pegged to a conventional currency, would result in “trading and liquidity becoming fragmented.”

Meanwhile, giving stablecoins the ECB’s backing would “outsource the provision of central bank money to private entities, endangering monetary sovereignty,” Panetta said.

As a possible solution, Panetta said the ECB might build a bridge between the private sector’s blockchain platforms and its own Target 2 settlement system.

Alternatively, it could make central bank money — the claim against the ECB in which wholesale transactions are settled — available on those platforms or create its own, he added.


PIF’s Jada signs MoU with Invest Seoul to boost startups, SMEs

PIF’s Jada signs MoU with Invest Seoul to boost startups, SMEs
Updated 26 September 2022

PIF’s Jada signs MoU with Invest Seoul to boost startups, SMEs

PIF’s Jada signs MoU with Invest Seoul to boost startups, SMEs

RIYADH: Fund of Funds Company, known as Jada and owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Invest Seoul Agency to promote startups and SMEs in both countries.

In a statement posted on Jada’s website, the MoU signed between the two parties seeks to exchange information on entrepreneurial policies and best practices and support startups aspiring to enter the Saudi or Korean markets. 

Invest Seoul Agency is a foreign investment promotion agency established by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Mazin Al-Shanbari, director of venture capital, Jada, said the MoU will “contribute to developing the business ecosystem for startups” and support the entry of SMEs “that aim to conduct business in the other country.

As per the MoU, the PIF’s Jada and the Korean agency will facilitate exchange of personnel and organize events such as roadshows, conferences and exhibitions to help entrepreneurs from both sides explore opportunities and help them start business.


Moody’s downgrades MEDGULF KSA’s insurance financial strength rating to Ba2

Moody’s downgrades MEDGULF KSA’s insurance financial strength rating to Ba2
Updated 26 September 2022

Moody’s downgrades MEDGULF KSA’s insurance financial strength rating to Ba2

Moody’s downgrades MEDGULF KSA’s insurance financial strength rating to Ba2

RIYADH: Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the Mediterranean and Gulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance Co insurance financial strength rating to Ba2 from Ba1. 

The firm, also known as MEDGULF KSA, is a Saudi joint stock company, and has seen its outlook changed from positive to negative.  

This reflects the challenges MEDGULF KSA faces in improving its underwriting performance and continued pressures on its capitalisation. 

In addition, Moody’s expects the company’s financial flexibility to become more constrained since its rights issue in 2021 with greater uncertainty around its ability to access additional external capital given persistent underwriting losses.

Meanwhile, Moody's has also downgraded the local and foreign currency long-term issuer ratings of Sharjah Islamic Bank to Baa2 from Baa1. 

In addition, the bank's baseline credit assessment was downgraded to ba2 from ba1, while the outlook on its long-term issuer ratings changed to stable from negative.

Moody's says that the downgrade of the bank’s long-term ratings captures the downgrade of the bank’s BCA to ba2 from ba1 and reflects primarily the deterioration in the bank's asset quality.


UAE In-Focus — Arada to open $1.7bn Sharjah office park

UAE In-Focus — Arada to open $1.7bn Sharjah office park
Updated 26 September 2022

UAE In-Focus — Arada to open $1.7bn Sharjah office park

UAE In-Focus — Arada to open $1.7bn Sharjah office park

DUBAI: Sharjah property developer Arada is boosting its portfolio with a 6.3 billion dirham ($1.71 billion) office park and five new residential projects in the UAE.

Arada CBD is spread over 4.3 million sq. feet of prime leasable space located in 40 smart office blocks. 

It will meet demand for a contemporary business district in Sharjah and will cater to the needs of companies throughout the UAE and beyond in the future, Emirates News Agency WAM reported.

According to analysis firm Oxford Economics, the Sharjah economy is projected to grow at a rate of 5 percent annually for the medium-term due to the launch of Arada CBD.

With 96 percent of its gross domestic product derived from non-oil sectors, the Emirate attracted 808 million dirhams in foreign direct investment in 2021, making it one of the most vibrant and diverse economies in the region.

Arada CBD’s first cluster is scheduled to break ground in 2023 and will feature 812,000 sq. feet of Grade A and Grade B leasable space spread across eight buildings.

There are also 1,666 parking spaces, 76,000 sq. feet of landscaped green space, and 26,500 sq. feet of retail space in the cluster.

Arada will relocate its headquarters to the first building of Arada CBD.

When Arada CBD’s first cluster is ready in 2025, the Aljada community will already have 20,000 residents.

Aljada, Sharjah’s largest ever project, covers 24 million sq. feet and will transform the Emirate.

There are numerous residential districts in Aljada, as well as extensive retail, hospitality, entertainment, sports, educational, and health care facilities, all integrated into a green urban master plan.

Approximately 1,500 homes have already been built at Aljada, and 6,000 more are currently being built.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the top most liveable cities in the Middle East and Africa

A massive vaccination drive against the COVID-19 pandemic made Abu Dhabi and Dubai among the safest and fastest to recover from the pandemic in the Middle East and Africa, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Both cities remain the most liveable in the region.

As a result of the vaccination campaign, the country avoided a full-scale lockdown in 2021 and, so far, in 2022, EIU said.

The report, published on Sept. 26, marks 1,000 days since the first COVID-19 case was announced to the World Health Organization in December 2019.

According to EIU, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have largely remained open for business since the first wave in 2020.

All target groups were vaccinated against COVID-19 by the UAE in June. Dubai was one of the first major cities to reopen during the pandemic.

Authorities implemented strict policies to contain the pandemic and reopen the city earlier.

As a result of strong trust between the two emirates, Dubai Airport handled 7.12 million passengers while Abu Dhabi Airport handled 6.3 million.

This year, Dubai’s population crossed the 3.5 million mark for the first time.

The region’s top cities to live in include Tel Aviv, Kuwait City, and Bahrain after the two emirates. Damascus, Lagos, Tripoli, Algiers, and Harare are the least liveable cities.


Air Arabia Egypt launches new route between Alexandria and Madinah

Air Arabia Egypt launches new route between Alexandria and Madinah
Updated 26 September 2022

Air Arabia Egypt launches new route between Alexandria and Madinah

Air Arabia Egypt launches new route between Alexandria and Madinah

RIYADH: Egyptian low-cost air carrier Air Arabia Egypt has announced the launch of a new service between Alexandria and Madinah in Saudi Arabia. 

According to a press release, the new flight will be launched from Borg El Arab Airport to Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport on Oct. 31. 

A single flight will operate from Alexandria every Monday and Wednesday, the press release further noted. 

The latest route to Medinah marks the tenth city that Air Arabia Egypt flies to in the Kingdom, after Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Tabuk, Taif, Al Jouf, Hail, Abha and Gassim.

“We are glad to add Medinah to our growing network from Egypt, offering our travelers with direct connectivity between both cities,” said Adel Al Ali, Group CEO of Air Arabia. 

He added: “We are confident that the new service will further contribute to the overall travel and tourism sector of Egypt and Saudi Arabia through providing an affordable and value-driven travel option to passengers traveling between the two countries.”